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Using smart technology to care for senior citizens

Posted at 1:56 PM, Sep 20, 2019

Laverne Renz lives alone in her home near Pittsburgh. At 85-years-old, Renz is not as independent as she used to be, but she has plenty of energy.

“I have to listen to her, or she’ll beat me up,” Renz jokingly said when asked about her caretaker, Rose Shenkel. The two have a playful relationship.

But Shenkel is not always around, so Renz has a back-up caretaker.

“Alexa, call Susie for me,” shouts Renz.

She uses Amazon’s Alexa to make phone calls and to listen to her favorite music. Alexa is even setup to give Renz important reminders.

“She reminds me when to take my medicine, when to eat my lunch. She reminds me of everything. She won’t leave me alone,” jokes Renz.

But Shenkel said when she’s not there to keep Renz company, Alexa can step in.

“It’s companionship for her. Artificial, but it’s companionship,” says Shenkel. “She spends a lot of time alone, so I think when Alexa comes on that perks her up, even when she wants to shut her up, it perks her up.”

The technology can be more than just a voice to talk to. It’s also setup to be a lifesaver.

Visiting Angels , a senior home care agency, installed devices throughout Renz’s home and programmed them to provide emergency help.

“If they fall at any time during the night, they can get help. And that’s key -just with their voice,” explains Connie Nelson with Visiting Angels.